• Sean Stephens

The Customer Management Gap…and why it could be your biggest challenge...and greatest opportunity

So…you are a charity with something to offer. People regularly flock to your website to get the information they want.

Or perhaps, your shiny new brand campaign has captured the public's imagination. You’ve inspired them to act and they want what you’re offering. They’re even ready to share that most precious of commodities. Data.

Job done. Value exchange achieved. And another name added to your charity’s database of ‘potential donors’.

Or is the job done?...

Just because I gave you my email address in return for some information, it doesn’t mean I want to set up a direct debit tomorrow – or even that I’m considering giving money to your charity. Not yet anyway…

So does that mean a brand building campaign simply cannot provide the same ‘value’ as a fundraising campaign?

It all depends on what you do next.

There are many valid reasons why charities invest in a brand building campaign. It can help you achieve share of voice in a crowded category or reach new audiences who are not yet engaged with you.

Crucially, in a brand campaign you are free from the constraints of ROI-led fundraising communications. Something which allows you to explore new and more nuanced ways of telling your story. It’s the place where you can show the world the sort of positive effects your organisation can have – rather than focusing entirely on the ‘need’ that you are there to serve.

But can a brand campaign ever deliver donors? People willing to support you with their hard-earned cash. The short answer is ‘yes’.

A good brand-building campaign will create a new, mass audience of supporters warm to your cause and ready to engage in a long and mutually rewarding relationship with you.

But, sadly, many of these new supporters never get past this initial contact. They quickly become less warm – and therefore less likely to take the relationship to the next level…and become a donor.

Why? Because all too often they end up in a no-man’s-land between the charity’s brand communicators and its fundraisers.

Here, people who were once interested, engaged and expectant supporters, are left to waste away their value. New contacts who should have been treated as some of the charity’s most prized assets are instead lost altogether, or relegated to the status of ‘data pool’ for future fundraising acquisition activity.

So whose responsibility is it to nurture these potential new supporters and steer them from their initial point of engagement to a place where a deeper, more mutually rewarding relationship can be formed?

The brand team are unlikely to have apportioned budget to this task, nor have the systems in place to develop segmented customer journeys, or see it as their role or responsibility.

They have ‘brought the new consumer to the door’, it’s someone else’s job to invite them in, show them around, earn their trust and keep them engaged.

Enter the fundraising team. After all, taking supporters on a ‘journey’ is their speciality. Isn’t it?

Well yes. And no. Supporter journey planning in fundraising tends to start after a consumer has donated, not before. Investing in a medium to long-term dialogue with a potentially large pool of consumers (who have so far shown no ‘propensity to give’) is not something a fundraising team can ‘afford’ to do.

It’s more than likely that their ROI-driven model means they won’t have the time, resources or budget to take on this level of investment in supporter development prior to any donation.

As a result, after hundreds of thousands, or sometimes millions, of pounds have been spent motivating consumers to ‘declare their interest’ in the brand, the brand itself isn’t geared up to reciprocate.

The consumer’s show of interest is usually answered in one of two ways. Some will receive a short-term exchange of value of some form, then no further contact. Others will be contacted with a generic and out-of-context fundraising ‘ask’ that neither recognises why they chose to show interest in the first place, or how they would like to further that interest.

Your hard-won, potentially valuable long-term supporters have just fallen into ‘The Customer Management Gap’. New consumers, enticed by brand activity, fall into the gap between where brand marketing stops (having elicited the data) and fundraising customer journey planning starts (once a consumer has donated).

In the commercial world, every point of new consumer engagement is thought through and nurtured, especially those consumers that have been attracted as a result of expensive advertising investment.

Commercial marketing teams are driven by the mantra that you have to ‘give value’ to earn the right to extract value.

As the charity market continues to become more competitive, with consumers having natural connections to multiple causes, charities will need to adopt the integrated customer management strategies practiced in the commercial sector. They will need to nurture ‘prospects’, provide relevant and timely ‘value’, and re-think lifetime value to begin at the point of engagement, not just at the point of donation.

Close the Customer Management Gap. And you’ll open the door to your charity’s next generation of loyal donors.

For more information on ‘Closing the Customer Management Gap’